One of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions was to try an Aviation cocktail. This was inspired by my good friend and cocktail aficionado, Rosemary, who referenced the periwinkle-hued cocktail a few times and even dubbed it the “it” cocktail for 2014. But the drink eluded me throughout the year. It contains some semi-exotic ingredients including Luxardo, made from Maraschino cherries. Not not like the kind in Shirley Temples that would be too easy. Luxardo is clear and made from Marasca cherries from the Dalmatia region of Croatia. The other ingredient lending the drink its signature azure hue is Crème de Violette made from Violets. So it was not the easiest to order at your average bar. I came close at a July party-they even had the special Aviation gin marketed for the drink- but alas no Luxardo and the liquor stores were closed. (Unfortunately in PA we can not purchase such late night supplies at a super market) I had a bottle of Rothman’s Crème de Violette at home and gin, and I could have simply purchased a bottle of Luxardo, but life gets busy and then suddenly it’s December and the Aviation remains elusive.
Luckily a few of my cocktail comrades were willing, despite a busy holiday season, to help me achieve my goal of trying The Aviation before 2015. So on December 27 we found ourselves in my kitchen with leftover holiday cookies and all of the right ingredients. We used Plymouth Gin for its citrusy quality, which Rosemary advised would compliment the other liquors.
We discussed the power of Crème de Violette and how it was probably best to just use two dashes, as some of the recipes suggested. Too much might make it too syrupy. I used 1. 5 oz of the Plymouth Gin. 1 oz of the Luxardo and lemon juice and then with “two flicks of the wrist” added the Crème de Violette. And lo and behold it was suddenly as if we had poured a glass of a late spring afternoon sky just before evening.
And when I held the glass up to the light, I found myself transported back to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh where in 2001 I became entranced with John Singer Sargent’s painting Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1892). A stunning portrait of a woman with a relaxed gaze, wearing the lightest of purplesque blue with a more violet sash. Here the pale purple of her dress and sash were echoed in my glass. But I also was reminded her gaze. Confident, peaceful. As if she had just sipped an Aviation. (Although the drink was not invented until 1916 by Hugo Ensselin the bartender at the Hotel Wallick in Times Square)